Simplifying the Rapture Discussion in Five Steps
The Pretribulation Rapture is being uniformly scuttled in church doctrinal statements everywhere. One’s position on the rapture is now considered “optional” and is certainly not a thing to be debated, or required in church doctrinal statements. These folks are throwing out more than one baby with the bathwater!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the rhetoric! Once we grasp the major issues surrounding the rapture, it’s easy to locate the scriptures which reveal this precious truth!
Ignore the nonsense!
If one simply “Googles in” the rapture discussion he risks becoming overwhelmed by the volume of material on the subject. One daunting article, for example, lists 250 reasons for the rapture (the majority of which are good)! Most articles, however, are highly charged, emotional arguments against this precious truth. Don’t be intimidated when you encounter these kinds of approaches:
1. The word rapture does not even occur in the Bible. To be raptured simply means to be “caught up.” While the English word does not appear in the Bible, the Greek word and idea certainly does and we get the doctrine from that very word “harpazo,” exactly as it is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Many wonderful doctrines don’t have English representations in our Bible. For example, the words trinity and millennium are not there. This argument is a ploy to distract folks from the biblical truth.
2. Historical arguments don’t work either. Supposedly, Darby (a founding father of Dispensationalism) listened to the fanciful vision of an 18 year old girl, and thus invented this doctrine. This attack is favored by the Church of Christ folks who never tire of repeating it. In reality, we don’t really care who did or did not have a vision. We do not care whether Darby did nor did not give an audience to this girl. One fact, remains, the rapture is clearly taught and easily recognized in the Bible and no one assumes it is true based on someone’s vision. If there is anything which would scare a true Dispensationalist off, it is the idea that his doctrine is based on anything other than the literal interpretation of God’s Word!
3. There are also fabricated arguments. Adventists favor this “straw man” tack. They consistently misrepresent what we mean and teach by the rapture. They insist that we teach a “secret rapture,” and then list a bunch of verses declaring that the Lord’s appearance will be visible by all. There is nothing secret about the rapture and Adventists know that rapture teachers do not embrace this silliness. Yet they persist. This is an openly deceitful ploy, and it rightfully challenges the
integrity of Adventism in other areas as well.
4. Then there are emotional arguments. The most significant is that folks cannot imagine Christ receiving an impure church unto Himself. She must go through the fires of the tribulation in order to purify her metaphorical robes, as it were. Such folks might as well teach purgatory. What about all the impure Christians who are already dead? And since when is the blood of Christ not sufficient to purify us? (Ephesians 5:25-27) Will the tribulation accomplish what the blood of Christ cannot? The raptured believer will face the Bema seat, but he will do so in a spotless robe! More to the point, the issue is not whether an argument satisfies us emotionally. If it is Bible truth it is Bible truth whether we like it or not. The Bible does not teach such purgative nonsense no matter how reasonable it seems to some.
Focus on the KEY passages.
Before we too become overwhelmed by all the nonsense, consider taking the time to read a few simple passages from the Word of God. Read them in their entirety. Read them in their simplicity. They are easily understood. John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Philippians 3:20-21.
1. John 14 explains the purpose of the rapture. Christ will personally return and bring us unto Himself and to His Father’s house. The whole purpose is so He can take us unto Himself. This is what makes the rapture so sweet!
2. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 explains the physical necessity for the rapture. This event was a
mystery. The resurrection was not a mystery (Job 19:26).The mystery was that Christians would be changed. Both dead and living believers will exchange their mortal remains and bodies for their resurrection bodies.
3. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 explains the mechanics of the rapture. We are not to be ignorant of these details. Those who are now with Christ will be brought with Him. We who are alive at the time will not precede them in this event. Their bodies will rise first, and we will join them as we are caught up (raptured) together in the clouds. Again, notice the purpose, so that we may “ever be with the Lord!” The Bible’s word for the coming of the Lord is the Greek word parousia which stresses His presence (the fact that He is coming physically) and we will enjoy that presence forever! Chapter 5 then continues on with the Day of the Lord which will follow.
4. Philippians 3:20 and 21 explains the timing of the rapture. We are to be looking (waiting with
full expectation) for this grand event during which our vile bodies will be transfigured and we
will go to the land of our citizenship! We will expand on this in the next step.
Put imminence in your arsenal!
The rapture is imminent and can happen at any time. The second coming of Christ cannot happen until specific prophetic events (Daniel’s seventieth week, for example) have occurred. Many view the rapture verses we have cited as relating to the second coming of Christ. They miss the simple doctrine of imminence.
1. We are waiting for the coming of Christ (1 Cor. 1:7, 8).
2. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10 the Thessalonians were saved in order to wait for the return of Christ from heaven in order to be delivered from the “wrath to come.” This appearance out of heaven is clearly the rapture mentioned in 4:13-18 and it precedes the wrath to come mentioned in 5:3-9. For a very thorough treatment of these verses, see http://www.pre-trib org/data/pdf/Brindle-BiblicalEvidenceforth.pdf.
3. Notice 1 Corinthians 1:7 where even the Corinthian believers were eagerly “awaiting” the coming of Christ. Yet the same Paul, who commended the Corinthians for this, would never have done so if he knew all of Daniel’s 70th week had to occur first.
4. In Titus 2:11-13, it is grace which teaches us to be looking for the blessed hope and glorious
appearing of Christ.
5. 1 John 3:2,3 tells us that this hope for the return of Christ promotes self-purification.
Obviously, Bible teachers have delved far more deeply into these verses than space allows here, but
they remain good starting points for teaching the fact that our Lord could return at any moment!
This precludes the idea that Christ could return in the middle of the Day of the Lord or at the
end. In those cases, we would be watching for the Day of the Lord.
6. Paul does explain the conditions which will usher in the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). Because he did this some say he assumed the Thessalonian believers were expected to watch for those conditions. On the contrary, Paul was simply explaining that the Day of the Lord had not yet come because those conditions had, obviously, not been met. Paul was protecting the Thessalonians from the idea that the rapture had come, he was assuring them that they would not be overtaken by this future day which will come as a thief in the night. You and I who see these conditions on the horizon are wise to have our spiritual houses in order. We are not foolish enough to predict when the rapture will occur, but neither are we ignorant how world events are rushing toward the end times.
Separate the two comings of Christ.
Christ does not come for His saints and return with His saints at the same time. These are separate events.
1. The fact that Christ would come with His saints is seen throughout both the Old and New Testaments (Dan. 7:13-14; Mat. 24:27-30; 1 Cor. 15:51-52).
2. The fact that Christ would first come for His saints was a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51). When Christ returns the second time, the signs preceding the event will be clearly seen, He will personally and physically return in great power and judgment, and all the earth will tremble at His coming. (Mat. 25:31, Rev. 19:11-16 and 15-21, Mat. 24:30, Acts 1:11, Rev. 1:7)
Separate God’s plan for the church from Israel.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ has an intricate plan for the world which He will ultimately complete in and through Israel. Scores of scripture passages in both the Old and New Testaments argue this point, and Romans 9, 10, and 11 give us a brief overview of this plan, past, present, and future.
2. The church age which occurs between Daniel’s 69th and 70th week (See Daniel 9:24-27) was not
prophesied. Not only does the Bible clearly state that this age was a mystery, but it also states that Christ will work out His mission to reach the Gentile nations through His body, the church. That is, unlike ages past and future, the church in this age fulfills the unique role of being the body through which He carries out His work (Colossians 1:24-28). When Jesus Christ personally executes the events of the Day of the Lord as outlined in Revelation 4 and 5, the work of the church will have consummated. In fact, the four and twenty elders will have already been judged (as evidenced by their victors’ crowns in Revelation 4:4). They will personally witness the work of Christ in the judgment of the entire world, the protection and salvation of a remnant of Jews throughout that tribulation period, and the ultimate salvation of all Israel. Israel, not the church is once again in focus. There is not as much as a hint that the church, the body of Christ through whom He ministered in His physical absence, will have any part in these events. This article includes a brief summary of the discussion, designed especially to assure new believers who are being “tossed about with every wind of doctrine.” Students who are struggling with particular aspects of this discussion are invited to send us a note. We will happily connect them with the best resources we know of to help them along in their study of God’s Word. Are you ready for the rapture?
Don’t waste a minute!
Just so you know....In an age when folks work hard to obscure their true beliefs, we want you to know we love all of our brethren in Christ everywhere, but we stand squarely on the Bible alone and we interpret it in its normal literal sense. For a detailed explanation visit our What We Believe page at Breadcrumbs.org.